The Atlantic

The Fascinating Riddle of a Sourdough Starter

Robin Sloan’s second novel about a baker’s secret weapon makes the case for culture as a kind of humane technology.
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“At General Dexterity, I was contributing to an effort to make repetitive labor obsolete,” laments Lois Clary, a software engineer at a San Francisco–based robotics company. At home, she recovers from the job with the help of calls to her parents in Michigan, who exist “locked in the frame of a video chat window,” and with meals of spicy soup and sourdough bread. She orders those from an odd, unlicensed Clement Street restaurant whose immigrant proprietors, the baker Beoreg and his brother Chaiman, lovingly call her their “number one eater.”

Lois’s relationship with this particular food establishment sets off a chain reaction in , Robin Sloan’s follow-up to his best-selling debut , and one of the more cogent novels this year on the fertile tensions that exist between culture and technology.the application of scientific knowledge for practical purposes, or technology, as the Oxford English Dictionary defines it, applies equally to baking as to computers.

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